Nigerian ‘cult’ refugee found dead

No evidence of foul play

A refugee claimant who said he fled Toronto in fear of a cannibalistic Nigerian cult was found dead over the weekend in the penalty box of an outdoor hockey rink in Dartmouth, N.S.

A groundskeeper found Brown Nosakhare, 28, just before 5 p.m. on Saturday. Police said there were no obvious signs of trauma and the man was dressed for the cold. Toxicology tests are not yet completed.

Police said they are baffled.

“There’s no evidence to suggest foul play,” said Sgt. Don Spicer of Halifax Regional Police. “We can’t rule out the possibility that the weather played a role.”

He said it is not known how long Mr. Nosakhare was in the penalty box, nor why he was there.

Mr. Nosakhare lived in Halifax, across the harbour from Dartmouth, since fleeing Toronto in late 2002, when his name appeared in news reports detailing his bizarre refugee claim.

“His claim has been that people were after him,” Kingsley Jesuorobo, Mr. Nosakhare’s lawyer, said yesterday. “He told me he was scared for his life. He didn’t want to be in this environment [Toronto] where everyone knew who he was.”

Mr. Nosakhare’s story has been baffling since 1999, when he arrived in Toronto as a refugee claimant with a tale of kidnapping, torture, murder and cannibalism. It is unclear, in fact, if that is even his name.

He said his father, a baker in Benin City, east of the Nigerian capital Lagos, was a member of the Ogboni death cult and there were harsh penalties for desertion. When his father died, he said cultists forcefully urged him to eat body parts as an induction ritual, but as a newly converted Christian, this was offensive to him.

He fled Benin City with his widowed mother for a neighbouring Nigerian state, but was pursued by the cult, who locked him up in their chief’s house for a week, he said.

After serious beatings and starvation, he was released, according to federal court records of his testimony.

The kidnapping was not reported to police, and when a Federal Court of Canada judge pressed him for details, it found his story “did not seem to be corroborated by the documentary evidence.”

“His response was that the information coming out of Nigeria is controlled,” court records stated.

The story took a twist in September, 2001, when the Reuters news agency tracked down Nosakhare Eghobamien, the owner of Nosakhare Bakery in Benin City, and apparently Mr. Nosakhare’s father. He was alive and well, and so was his eldest son. Both denied knowing the man in Toronto.

Interestingly, one of the bakery’s popular products was a bread called “Plymouth Brown,” which the baker speculated was the source of the name “Brown Nosakhare.”

Mr. Jesuorobo said this story was mistaken and that this Nosakhare family was no relation.

Mr. Nosakhare was not the first to claim persecution by Ogboni cannibals. Five nearly identical applications have been made to the Immigration and Refugee Board since 2000 and an earlier one in 1993. Often, the applicants cited their Christianity as the prime reason for fearing the cult and most mentioned cannibalism or ritual sacrifice.

None of the claims were granted and the court often observed that, if the applicants were so scared, they could have gone to Nigerian police. Instead, they fled to Canada.

In one such record, the court described the Ogboni as a harmless fraternity of older men: “Members view themselves more as a lodge or social club than a ‘cult.’ There are no reports linking the Ogboni with acts of cannibalism.”

There have been no claims of cult members pursuing people overseas.

One of the court records, however, acknowledges that people are sometimes forced to join the Ogboni if their parents dedicate them to the society.

Mr. Nosakhare’s refugee claim was denied in 2000, but this decision was overturned in 2001 by the federal court, which ordered the immigration board to reconsider the case.

The claim was denied again in 2002 by the board, and Mr. Jesuorobo said he was in the process of appealing this decision on humanitarian grounds when Mr. Nosakhare fled for Nova Scotia.

He heard from him only once, when Mr. Nosakhare called to say he had arrived safely.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
National Post, Canada
Jan. 21, 2004
Joseph Brean, with files from Stewart Bell

Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday January 21, 2004.
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